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The key to building great relationships with your clients

Updated: Nov 16, 2021



Let’s turn the tables for a moment. We’re so used to thinking in the mindset of searching for new leads and managing client relationships. But think back to the last time when you took a turn as the customer.


How did your experience on the client-side influence your feelings about the overall business? More specifically, did it affect whether you’d return again for their product or service?


When done right, investing in a strong relationship with clients fosters trust, brand loyalty, and repeat customers. So whether you know this to be true from the point of view of the consumer or the provider, it’s easy to understand why clients are a critical ingredient for company sustainability and profitability.


Let’s take a look at the role a good customer relationship can play in growing your business, and five best practices for how to build lasting relationships with clients.



The importance of building relationships with clients


Building rapport with customers is a smart business move, plain and simple. You’ll see the positive effects on multiple sectors of your work.


Reason #1: Higher client retention rate and increased referrals


Many web designers attest to the 80/20 principle: 80% of their sales come from 20% of their customers. A distribution like that can only happen if clients have enjoyed the experience of working with you, and if you’ve invested some time during the project in building customer loyalty. The result? Less time spent on chasing down new leads to fill your calendar.


Reason #2: Facilitate a more seamless web design process


There are two client relationships management best practices that have the power to transform the entire web design process: alignment and excellent communication.


Syncing early on about expectations, vision, and timeline for the project lays the groundwork for a smooth partnership ahead.


Setting firm boundaries and prioritizing open and clear conversation helps keep the work process from getting derailed by disagreement. We’ll discuss these strategies more below.


Reason #3: Enjoy your projects!


Web designing can - and should - be fun. Relating to your clients on a people-to-people level is a big part of that. Instead of basing your interactions purely on deadlines, payments, and feedback, open up the relationship to collaborative brainstorming, pleasant conversation, and connecting over your shared experiences as business owners (or other topics you have in common).


We bet you’ll find the resulting laughter and empathic understanding alters the dynamic between the two of you, and therefore the project overall.


Now that we’ve covered why exactly building relationships with clients is so essential to your web design business, let’s move into how to forge those strong connections.



5 best practices for building great client relationships


  1. Understand your client

  2. Actively build trust through collaboration

  3. Practice clear communication and set boundaries

  4. Remember your client is human, too

  5. Standardize your follow up


01. Understand your client


Before you start looking for your next client, spend some time identifying the characteristics you would want in your ideal collaborator. Consider the following questions:

  • What is the client’s professional field?

  • What is the size of their target audience?

  • What is their budget?

  • How would their colleagues describe their default role within a team? What are their major personality traits?


This sample profile is useful for generating leads that are right for your business. It guides how you structure your search, targeting the sectors and networks where you’re likely to find good prospective customers.


Knowing your ‘red flags’ also helps you preemptively filter out leads that may lead to a less productive working relationship, whether that’s for budget reasons, personality type, or a project that’s of no interest to you.


Once you find new clients, suddenly a real person replaces your mock persona. Because a successful web design project begins with extensive client research, another round of information gathering is in order.


 

For a more in-depth outline of this research step and how it can help you craft a winning web design proposal, see The Step-by-Step Guide to Optimizing Your Web Design Process.

 

In short, make it your mission to learn as much as possible about your client. That includes: business goals, project vision, aesthetic preferences, brand identity and story, and other involved stakeholders.


An initial client meeting is a great time to explore these topics, and ask for any additional assets (e.g. brand guidelines) that could help further your understanding.


This step builds towards a good customer relationship for several reasons:


  • The client will be impressed by your ability to frame your project proposal within the larger context of their business.

  • The design choices you propose along the way will be informed by the ‘larger picture,’ and your knowledge of the client’s taste and needs. That means a higher chance the client will like what they see at each stage, saving you time and impressing the client with your professionalism.

  • Time is often synonymous with value. Spending time learning about your client, and shaping the project according to what they share, is another way of saying: ‘I value and respect you.’ What better feeling to convey to a client to earn their loyalty in the long-term?


To expand on that last point, understanding your client helps you access empathy for them. This relational technique asks you to try and approach each conversation from their perspective. Sometimes the aspects that are most obvious to you - like how the client feedback process works - are nothing more than a murky question mark for them. They just might be too embarrassed to say so. Or not even realize what they don’t know.


When you step in their shoes, you are doing a big service to both them and you. You might notice the clarity of your explanations improve. Or the way you ask questions, and the focus with which you listen to the answers, might change. On paper, these may seem like small matters. But when it comes to how they impact clients, they’re a big deal. Showing you understand your client makes them feel heard, and helps them trust you with their vision.



Building relationships with clients


02. Actively build trust through collaboration